Hometown radio stations here in Mississippi and those across the nation are facing a threat that could put a lot of them out of business—particularly the smaller locally owned stations.
The threat is a proposed law in Congress that would impose a kind of performance tax on every record that a radio station plays. This pay-to-play fee would be paid to major record labels…hurt recently by the big changes in how digital music is distributed. But the radio stations have a valid point when they claim that record labels and performers have benefited immeasurably for decades from the free promotion of their music.
Would there have been an Elvis Presley without radio? How about Hank Williams or Frank Sinatra or the Beatles? Would Michael Jackson have even gotten started without the radio stations playing the songs of the Jackson Five back in the day? Where would world shaking innovative record labels like Motown, Sun Records, Chess, Stax and other independent recording companies that took chances on unheard of artists have gotten exposure for their product without radio?
In the old days of radio disc jockeys, some of them even got in trouble when record labels tried to bribe them to play certain records. Well, now the record companies want it the other way. You know, free over-the-air radio isn't as diverse as used to be back in its halcyon days. The odds are pretty good that if Congress goes along with this performance tax, local radio will suffer and that's bad for our communities.